After CODEPINK Campaign, Torture Defender Mike Morell Bows Out for CIA — LA Progressive

Marcy Winograd
4 min readDec 24, 2020


Peace group CODEPINK is relieved to hear that Mike Morell has withdrawn his name from consideration to become director of the CIA under the incoming Biden administration. CODEPINK has been opposing his nomination for months, including just releasing a letter from torture survivors and their advocates urging President-elect Biden not to nominate Morell. Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush and both Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, defended the CIA torture during the Bush-era, invoking the euphemism “enhanced interrogation” practices to describe waterboarding, physical beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and sexual humiliation.

“Mike Morell’s appointment would have been a callous rebuke to survivors of torture and all those who care about human rights and the protection of basic dignity,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin. “We can’t allow the new Biden administration to include people who have been involved-in any way-in heinous acts of torture. That’s why we are part of a groundswell of opposition to both Mike Morell for CIA and drone kill list and torture enabler Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence.No torture apologists should be allowed to serve in this administration. Period.”

Senate intelligence committee staffers were so troubled by Morell’s claims that they issued a lengthy rebuttal in a special report blasting Morell’s numerous errors and misrepresentation of established facts.

In 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued the 500-page summary of its “Torture Report,” denouncing CIA torture as both inhumane and ineffective and concluded that the Agency’s use of torture was far more frequent and gruesome than had been previously acknowledged. However, in his 2015 memoir, Morell asserted without evidence that torture was effective. The Military Times reported that the Senate intelligence committee staffers were so troubled by Morell’s claims that they issued a lengthy rebuttal in a special report blasting Morell’s numerous errors and misrepresentation of established facts.

Morell also defended the CIA’s destruction in 2005 of nearly 90 videotapes of brutal interrogations at CIA black sites.

Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America, and Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture have been lobbying against the inclusion of torture apologists in the Biden administration since the August Democratic National Convention. Their efforts included a letter to Biden from 450 DNC delegates, a CODEPINK petition signed by over 4,000, and calls to the offices of the Senators on the Intelligence Committee.

“When we started this campaign,” says 2020 DNC Delegate Marcy Winograd, “Morell was considered the frontrunner, but opposition to his disgraceful defense of torture has cast a pall on his nomination, resulting in him withdrawing from consideration. We are relieved that Morell’s nomination is off the table and also ask Biden and the Senate to reject Avril Haines due to her complicity in suppressing evidence of CIA torture and her support for killer drones.”

CODEPINK and others will continue to oppose Avril Haines, another torture apologist, as Director of National Intelligence. Since she has already been nominated, they are asking Senators to oppose her confirmation because of her role not only in the drone bombings and censorship of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture but also because her decision to over-rule the CIA Inspector General in refusing to discipline CIA agents who hacked into investigators’ computers.

Signatories of the recent letter opposing Morell for CIA director and Haines for National Intelligence included: Mansoor Adayfi, a writer from Yemen imprisoned for 14 years without charge at Guantanamo Bay, where he was force-fed for two years; Moazzam Begg, a British-Pakistani ex-Guantanamo detainee and Outreach Director for CAGE, a service organization for torture survivors and communities impacted by the War on Terror; Sister Dianna Ortiz, a US missionary tortured by members of the CIA-funded Guatemalan army; Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Whistleblower and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; John Kiriakou, former CIA officer imprisoned after exposing CIA waterboarding; and musician Roger Waters (formerly with Pink Floyd), whose song “Each Small Candle” is a tribute to torture victims.

“Should the Biden administration insist on going forward with Haines’ nomination, we will put the entire drone program and CIA torture on trial,” says Winograd. “Our campaign will raise the questions we hope Senate Intelligence Committee members will ask of Haines. “How many weddings and funerals did you attack? What legal framework did you provide for drone bombings that are illegal under international law? Why did you over-rule the CIA Inspector General to allow CIA agents off the hook for hacking into Senate computers? What was in the torture report you stripped from 6,000 words to a 500-page summary riddled with black ink redactions? Do you think the American people have a right to know the truth about what the government did in our name and with our tax dollars?”

Medea Benjamin, Marcy Winograd, Ariel Gold

Originally published at on December 24, 2020.



Marcy Winograd

Co-Founder, Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party; blogger at LA Progressive